Concord, New Hampshire (CNN) – Just hours before a high stakes Republican presidential debate, is Ron Paul feeling any pressure?
“Oh, nothing special,” the candidate told reporters Saturday morning when asked if he had any special feelings about the debate.
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The Saturday evening face-off will be sponsored by ABC News, Yahoo News and WMUR-TV and will come three days before New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary. The contest could be a game changer, with its near certain gift of campaign momentum to winners and its potential to further winnow the field of those not so fortunate.
On this day, the Texas congressman chatted up diners at the Windmill Family Restaurant in Concord, New Hampshire, his only scheduled public event before the debate.
As diners enjoyed steak and eggs, coffee and other breakfast items, the candidate worked the booths and tables and served up off-the-cuff chats.
At one point, a patron pressed Paul about the need for the U.S. to cooperate with other nations.
Paul responded with his usual, if not controversial, view that contains one central tenet: the U.S. avoiding confrontation
“Remember how we broke through with China? We played ping pong,” Paul told the man. “I think things like that, cooperation, would bring people together. Time for ping pong.”
Friday was Paul’s first day back on the campaign trail after a brief break following Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses. In a packed afternoon rally at an airport hangar in Nashua, the congressman appeared with his son, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. The congressman also spoke to a few hundred people later in the evening at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.
In between the events, the congressman spoke with reporters. One question he was asked: why did he decide to take a few days off after Iowa?
“I don’t know if we took a couple days off as much as we just stuck to our plan, you know. We had a plan, we were to be here the last five days, we came back,” Paul said.
“But the whole thing is it reflects our strategy and the work that we’ve done. We’ve been up here many, many times. There’s probably not very many who have been here more than I have. And we have invested a lot of money too."
The candidate also acknowledged how the current dynamics of the race could dramatically change just days before Tuesday’s primary. While he explained, Paul also took aim at some of his rivals.
“I understand some of these campaigns move rather quickly at the end. So I think we’re going to emphasize exactly what the opponents believe in and this is not a state that likes big government,” Paul said. “And if they do vote for somebody who has voted for big government, that means they didn’t get enough information. So I think my job in the next five days is to explain what they have supported in the past. And as far as I’m concerned, all my opponents support way too much government. They support the status quo and the more they get this information the better.”
Does Paul believe that former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum – whose second place finish in Iowa bested Paul by four percentage points - is his biggest competitor?
“Oh hardly,” Paul responded. “I think he’s a competitor, but I don’t think he’s the biggest one.”
“He’s one individual when the conservatives up here find out how big government is, he brags about being for the balanced budget amendment, never did anything about it. Four or five times he voted to raise the national debt. So that tells you how conservative he is.”
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